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Walden University (Tennessee): Wikis


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Walden University
Active 1865—1925
Type Private
Religious affiliation Methodist Episcopal
Location Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Other names Central Tennessee College (1865–1900)
Walden College (1922–1925)

Walden University (1865-1925), a historically black college, was created by northern missionaries of the Methodist Church in 1865 in Nashville, Tennessee to serve freedmen. For more than three generations, it provided education and professional choices to African Americans.

Meharry Medical College, established as one of Walden's departments in 1876, was the first medical school in the South for African Americans. In 1915 it was chartered separately and became a separate institution. It is one of the constellation of colleges in Nashville.

After regrouping as a junior college in 1922 and offering a two-year associate's degree, Walden College closed in 1925 due to financial difficulties and competition with state-run colleges. Since 1935, its second campus (acquired in 1922) has served Trevecca Nazarene University.



Walden University, a historically black university (HBCU), could be said to have been founded in Nashville in 1865 by missionaries from the northern Methodist Episcopal Church. They first organized a basic community school for freedmen. Classes attracted both children and adults, as people eagerly embraced the chance for literacy and learning.

After the state established a public elementary school in Nashville, in 1867 the Methodists chartered Central Tennessee College for freedmen. The Freedmen's Bureau helped finance construction of the first two brick buildings.[1] The directors added higher level courses, including teacher education, agriculture, science, and theology. The college was part of a first generation of such institutions across the South to educate freedmen and to teach teachers and ministers, fields that were closely aligned as callings. To aid students, it included preparatory classes for those who had not had much prior education. Gaining education was seen as a priority for African Americans, and the vocation of teaching attracted many of the most talented people. Segregation made separate institutions for blacks necessary.[2]

In 1876, the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College was founded as the first medical school in the South for blacks. It was founded and supported financially by Samuel Meharry and his four brothers, Scots-Irish immigrants who became philanthropists. In 1915 the medical department received a separate charter and became Meharry Medical College. It still continues in Nashville.[3]

Expansion continued in the 1880s, when the college added departments of law, pharmacy (also the first in the South for African Americans), dentistry and industrial arts.[4]

In the 1890s, the college added courses for women, including nursing in 1892. The college also stressed what were considered industrial and domestic arts, as promoted at Tuskegee Institute. Struggles continued over the appropriate role of the college, a tension reflected in southern education during these years.

In 1900, Central Tennessee College was renamed Walden University in honor of Methodist Bishop John Morgan Walden, who had served freedmen as a missionary after the Civil War. The university then had thirteen departments and 68 faculty.[1]

After the state established Tennessee Agricultural, Industrial, and Normal State School, now Tennessee State University, in Nashville in 1912, Walden University had more trouble attracting students and struggled to reframe its mission. In addition, in response to lynchings and disfranchisement, many ambitious African Americans left Nashville and other southern areas in the Great Migration to northern cities for work and more freedom. The percentage of black population in the city dropped sharply from its 40 percent in 1890. Due to other demographic influences and economic changes, by the 1970s, only 22 percent of the city was black.[5]

In 1922, Walden University was renamed Walden College and was moved to a 12-acre campus overlooking the black neighborhood of Trimble Bottom. It served as a junior college, with pre-medical and pre-law programs among its offerings. Continuing financial difficulties forced its closing in 1925.[6]

In 1935 the campus was leased by Trevecca Nazarene University, a private Christian institution affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, which purchased it in 1937.


For more than three generations Walden University filled a critical need, serving freedmen and their descendants in the gaining of literacy and education, and training teachers, doctors and other professionals. Its departments in medicine and pharmacy (now part of Meharry Medical College) were the first for African Americans in the South. It also added departments for law and nursing.

As the state gradually took on more responsibility and financing of education, the need for Walden as a private institution decreased. African Americans had more choices in colleges which they could attend.

Notable alumni

(See Meharry Medical College for list of many notable medical alumni, including some from the historical period of affiliation with Walden University.)


  1. ^ a b Bobby L. Lovett, "Walden University (1868-1925)", A Profile of African Americans in Tennessee History, Nashville: Tennessee State University, accessed 18 Dec 2008
  2. ^ Barnard, Henry (1879). "Tennessee". The American Journal of Education (F.C. Brownell): 240–242. ISSN 1077-7032.  
  3. ^ "Meharry Medical College", Library of Meharry Medical College, (1908). Retrieved on 2008-07-28
  4. ^ "Meharry Medical College", Library of Meharry Medical College, (1908). Retrieved on 2008-07-28
  5. ^ Bobby L. Lovett, "Introduction", A Profile of African Americans in Tennessee History, Nashville: Tennessee State University, 1995, accessed 18 Dec 2008
  6. ^ Bobby L. Lovett, "Walden University (1868-1925)", A Profile of African Americans in Tennessee History, Nashville: Tennessee State University, 1995, accessed 18 Dec 2008
  7. ^ Historical Marker Database. Kentucky Historical Society. Retrieved on 2008-07-28.




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